Criminal mastermind Professor Marcus (Guinness) and his motley crew of thieves are planning a daring bank robbery. To provide suitable cover, they masquerade as a group of amateur musicians and take lodgings at the home of kindly old Mrs. Wilberforce (Johnson). The Professor assumes the aged landlady will remain unobstrusive and clueless to their machinations, but he sorely underestimates her.
"Man In The White Suit" director Mackendrick and Guinness reunite in this peerless black comedy, which benefits from William Rose's ingenious story and the finest casting a comedy could hope for. Guinness's Marcus is the essence of smarmy charm (check out his false teeth, which create a slightly menacing quality). The gang itself is a truly inspired bunch of misfits, including Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, and a portly Peter Sellers (the latter two would reunite years later for the "Pink Panther" series). But it's the diminutive Katie Johnson who very nearly steals the picture; her Mrs. Wilberforce projects a steely will cloaked in Victorian gentility. (This version is not to be confused with the inferior Coen Brothers remake starring Tom Hanks.)